CHADWICK: Sadly, America’s Complete Reliance on Law Enforcement is No Longer a Reality

By Rob Chadwick

The landscape of personal security in the United States has shifted dramatically, leaving a lasting impact on law enforcement and citizens alike. A recent NewsNation and Decision Desk HQ poll of registered voters found crime was the second largest issue Americans are worried about, behind only inflation, “and more than half of the respondents said they were at least somewhat worried about being the victim of a violent crime.”

While some may argue that the "Defund The Police" era has passed, for those in law enforcement, that was a bell that cannot be unrung. As the nation navigates through another politically charged election year, individuals from various backgrounds and political beliefs have valid reasons to be deeply concerned about their safety. No matter who you are or what your opinion of the police is, in a crisis, we all still call 911 and wait for help to arrive. In today’s America, it will almost certainly be longer than you think before that help arrives.

Drawing from my unique perspective as the former head of the FBI’s Tactical Training Unit at Quantico, where my unit traveled the country to train with Officers, Deputies, and Troopers, there is one notable observation regarding the prevalent concerns, frustrations, and fears among first responders. Without exception, every agency visited faced difficulties in attracting and retaining employees willing to wear the badge and go into harm’s way to protect and serve their communities.

What once garnered hundreds of applicants now only brings in a handful, academy classes are routinely canceled due to a lack of recruits, and dozens of smaller departments have closed their doors forever, unable to maintain even minimal staffing levels.   

The events following George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, prompted me and my team of instructors to be called to Washington, D.C., to assist with the protests and unrest that were sweeping the country.

During the four decades that encompassed my time in law enforcement, this experience in D.C. represented a fundamental change in my understanding of where I stood in relation to my fellow citizens. Never before had I doubted my role as a respected protector of those who could not protect themselves, including some of the community's most vulnerable.

Suddenly, friends, neighbors, and even some family members openly questioned the nature and validity of what I had always believed to be a truly noble profession. With the influence of social media, hyper-partisan politics, and a pervasive cancel culture, many colleagues nationwide and I departed public service earlier than anticipated.

In recent years, that unprecedented wave of early retirements and departures from law enforcement agencies has led to a mass exodus of experienced professionals that departments nationwide struggle to replace. The average department is now glaringly understaffed, which has led to cities like Pittsburgh most recently having to reconfigure their response protocol.

This staffing shortage, combined with dwindling confidence in community support and departmental leadership during Use of Force incidents, has resulted in an unrecognized crisis in public safety: on average, law enforcement response times have doubled since 2019. Considering that the average violent attack is over within seven seconds, it is increasingly unrealistic to believe that the police will be there in time if trouble ever finds you.

Fortunately, it’s clear many are recognizing this new reality for themselves. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), nearly 5 million Americans became first-time gun owners last year alone. There is also growing diversity among new gun owners as well with Americans from all walks of life choosing to be their family’s first line of defense.

Corresponding with this increase in new gun owners, we also see record demand for education and training at the  U.S. Concealed Carry Association, which educates and empowers individuals nationwide to take proactive measures in their self-defense journey.

We believe it’s time that Americans have the knowledge to effectively bridge the gap between the heightened safety concerns in America and the evolving dynamics in law enforcement.

In critical situations, the police may be minutes away when seconds matter. The journey to becoming a competent and confident protector of what matters most begins with acceptance of this new reality.

Rob Chadwick, a retired Supervisory Special Agent and former head of the FBI’s Tactical Training Program at Quantico, now serves as the Director of Education & Training for Delta Defense and the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA).

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